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Increase Prices Without Killing Retention

Q: We solely rely on cash payment from customers owing to an absence of EFT direct debit system and also because this country is largely a cash based society. We have prepaid monthly membership, which means that the customer has the option every month to bail out of the contract if he seems a discrepancy between the price-value relationship. This, in turn, makes us work very hard in the sense that we're unable to estimate our attrition rates.
How does one determine the right time to increase prices and still uphold the value proposition for the customer?

A: It was not that long ago that the US health club industry felt that the public would not accept EFT payments for membership. We began offering lower dues to members who were willing to try the EFT billing system. Within a short period of time, the majority of members were selecting this option. We continued to offer the cash payment option at a premium price.

  I recommend that you get into a practice of increasing your dues once a year. Let members know they can expect to see an increase in dues, relative to increased costs, each year. You can explain that your club prefers not to solve these increased costs with staff or service reductions.

The best time to do a dues increase is in conjunction with your busiest sales season. In the US, this is typically January when clubs experience a high volume of new memberships as people make New Year's resolutions to take better care of themselves.

My suggestion is that you consider combining these two issues into one solution. I recommend that you revise your membership pricing structure. Increase the cost of your current cash payment membership offer and offer a new EFT membership at the current dues rate. Notify all of the existing members that you are imposing a dues increase but they can choose to avoid this increase if they sign up for EFT billing.

Jill Stevens Kinney, Managing Director
Clubsource Development Partners LLC

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